Klil Agassi, an intern at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), together with ACRI attorney Gil Gan-mor, exposed the unsavory discriminative practices of sales agents representing new housing projects in mixed Arab and Jewish cities, Lod and Jaffa. Online Ynet news covered these stories, and one of the sales agents has since been fired.
Klil is one of 42 Israeli university students this month to complete their year interning at a wide variety of social change organizations as part of Shatil’s Everett Fellows for Social Justice program. When Klil saw the ad for the Everett program on Facebook, confronting discrimination on the basis of ethnic or cultural identity in the housing market was just a concept for her: “Gil Gan-mor and I built the project from the ground up. We enlisted volunteers and developed a training session for them with a simulation of the investigative work we wanted to them to do: to act as prospective buyers by initiating contact with the housing sales agents and engaging them in their sales pitch. In fact, the sales agents gave distinctly different information on prices and availability of housing units to the Arabs and the Jewish volunteers acting as buyers. The agents were smooth, friendly and cordially unwelcoming to prospective Arab buyers.”
“On the one hand,” says Klil, “it’s infuriating and sad to see how rampant this discrimination is. On the other hand, it’s inspiring to see how much power ACRI has in enabling a process that can bring about litigation and policy change, and that one of the agents we exposed has already been fired.” Klil’s experience shows how student fellows can make a valuable contribution to NIF and Shatil’s broader effort to create a shared society and combat racism.
Klil first became aware of the social distance between Arabs and Jews, while she was working toward her BA in Humanities and Theatre at University of Tel Aviv, where she felt a “transparent barrier” between the two groups of students: “We ate in the same cafeterias, sat in the same classrooms, but there was no contact between us.” Looking for a way to engage in “significant interaction with Arabs,” in her words, Klil joined the NIF grantee, Sadaka Reut Jewish Youth Partnership Group. Then she did an internship with them, became a facilitator and started her own student group. As an outgrowth of this experience, Klil is currently studying towards an MA in Mediation and Conflict Resolution at University of Tel Aviv. The Everett program has taken her one more step along the path of creating social change.
Klil bubbles with enthusiasm when she recalls her experience as an Everett fellow: “The program was excellent; each of the content meetings was meaningful and changed my awareness in some way. I learned how accessible the Knesset is to an average person and how many civil rights we actually have; and it was extremely important to sit face-to-face with our host from Umm Al Hiran, and hear first-hand about the challenges of living in an unrecognized Bedouin village.”
The Everett Program for Social Justice has provided internships, experiential programming to deepen participants’ understanding of issues critical to Israeli society and tools to create social change for 14 years — thanks to the generosity of its founders Edith and the late Henry Everett. Klil appreciates the support she received from Shatil. “Yael Porat (Coordinator of the Everett Fellows for Social Justice) gave us her full presence and attentiveness in a wonderful way.”